Milk provides a package of protein and essential nutrients that are not easily replaced with other foods. Among registered dietitians, family physicians and pediatricians who participated in a recent survey, fluid milk was among the top sources of calcium and vitamin D they recommended to their clients/patients.
So what’s up with all of the other items filling the shelves claiming to be milk or just like milk? Walk past the dairy case at any given grocery store, and the choices can be dizzying. To make matters even more confusing, the products’ nutrients are not consistent, and the ingredient lists range from simple to complex.
Only cow’s milk has a long track record of research supporting its health benefits, and other alternatives simply cannot match the complete nutritional equivalent. Non-dairy beverages have no FDA-regulated standard of identity as cow’s milk products do, and the nutrition claims for these items vary greatly.
To help you ‘decode the dairy case,’ here’s a short video from our friends at the American Dairy Association:
There are 228 family dairy farms in Oregon, and no two are exactly alike. Regardless of the farm size, location and history, there are certain values and standards that every Oregon dairy farmer has in common:
- Dairy farmers’ commitment to providing high quality milk begins with taking good care of their cows. On farms of all sizes, farmers care for their cows by providing a nutritious diet, good medical care and healthy living conditions. Animal comfort is key to a farmer’s livelihood.
- Environmental stewardship is important to all farmers, no matter how many cows they milk. Farmers care for their land and their natural resources. They usually live on the land where they farm.
- It’s important to dairy farmers that they be good neighbors and members of the community.
- Farmers and the industry are innovating and working toward a sustainable future. They are increasingly working smarter with automation, methane digesters, recycling, precision agriculture and solar panels to increase efficiency and reduce impacts.
- Food safety starts at the farm. Milk is one of the most tested and regulated food products, and farmers employ rigorous standards, practices and procedures to ensure that it is kept pure, cold and safe.
- Dairy farmers take great pride in their work, and they want the next generation to work on the same land so they can continue providing the nutritious food that we enjoy and depend on. It is their legacy.
There’s a common misperception that larger farms are somehow not as good for the animals or environment. However, the large scale farms allow optimal use of scarce resources such as water, energy and land. Large farms also face the same kinds of regulations and oversight as smaller farms. If you have questions about dairy farming, use our contact form and let us know.
At Honor the Harvest, a summit sponsored by the National Dairy Council in June, more than 200 professionals from the culinary, nutrition, health and wellness, and agricultural communities gathered to immerse themselves in the science and insights about dairy’s role from farm to table.
Representing Oregon at this national summit was Anne Goetze, our Senior Director of Nutrition Affairs, Oregon Health and Science University’s Sonja Connor and Oregon Department of Education’s Farm to School Specialist, Rick Sherman.
“Our Oregon guests are leaders locally and nationally. They were intrigued to hear dairy’s sustainability story,” said Anne.
From a packed day of educational sessions and application to a tour of the agricultural experience at Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, participants learned about dairy’s key role as part of sustainable food systems.
“Honoring the harvest is about using the food for its highest purpose and moving nutrients through the food system – from people, to animals, and back to the land to grow more food – instead of going to waste in a landfill,” said Anne. “By working together we can preserve precious resources and feed a growing population.”